Thursday 29 December 2011


Our house is full of dogs, children, cats- and adults in various states of seasonal gluttony,  hangoverdom and/or denial, and three of us are working! 'Tis the season for the whole family to gather at our house, and these days that includes two very young dogs who are at present tearing around our feet play-fighting and terrorising the cats (also guests)

The three working people amongst the negligent throng (the kids are playing chess- the younger insisting to the older that "You can't move dinagonally Ted!") are myself, in my editing and managing capacity for Trifolium Books, daughter Kate, our designer, and Julia author of the soon to be published Boy with Two Heads.

...And indeed the three heads are working well and  producing cover designs, promotional ideas and... Julia's new blog Please click and visit!

Saturday 17 December 2011


Kathleen enjoying a cuddle with my daughter's little dog
Themis with his ipad!

A small portion of Kathleen's MSs

Whilst as far as this blog is concerned, I may have seemed to do nothing for the last few weeks, I have been beavering away, and had no time to spare to write posts.


Kathleen is now living in sheltered accommodation and her house- (which she once called "Hell Hall", so no regrets there) - is sold, and I have come into a wonderful collection of manuscripts, books, lecture notes, photos, and notebooks.

Kathleen herself doesn't want any of these possessions any more, but I was interested to see that her own copy of Moon in Leo was in her room, sitting by her bed, and very well thumbed. Kathleen and her cousin, who manages her affairs, are very happy for me to take charge of these papers and become, in effect, Kathleen's literary executor.

The estate agent who sold the house very kindly kept the stuff- a full carload- in his office until my daughter was able to pick them up. it took twelve trips to her flat from her car to get them home, where they filled her spare room. They then filled our car, and are now filling my office! And it will take us many months to sort and catalogue the thousands of pages we have got.

Partially sorted papers and books in my office

It is very exciting though: I have already found a beautifully written story about Guinevere called The Once and Future Queen, which I will probably publish as an eBook. It has an unusual feminist angle, and is not at all the normal romantic stuff. Look out  for it! There may also be a fifth novel- we have found several chapters and copious notes, maps and even photos of the settings- all Cumbrian. Meanwhile, work continues on Bride of the Spear and the other books in the Kingdoms of the North Trilogy.


I love Deborah Swift's blog- Royalty Free Fiction, with its many posts by different writers. Deborah says, 'History is full of ordinary people with extraordinary stories', and she invites authors to tell the story behind the story. She asked me to tell the story of Moon in Leo, and I was delighted, but found it very difficult to write, as I had to tell Kathleen's own harrowing story. It was painfully difficult to distance myself enough to do it! I will post a notice here when the Moon in Leo story is published, but meanwhile please visit this intriguing blog. You will not be disappointed, but you may be a little poorer, as you will want to read all the books featured! I did.


The main activity that has dominated my life recently however, has been all-consuming. I have been working closely with author Julia Newsome to bring out her novel The Boy with Two Heads- her first full length novel for young adults. We had originally hoped to get it onto bookshelves before Christmas, but as Julia and I are obsessive perfectionists, it has taken longer than expected. You will soon be able to pre-order it on Amazon however, in plenty of time for the Olympics. More on this soon...

And this blog is due an overhaul too! I will fit it all in somehow, but the Christmas cards might be a bit late!

Friday 11 November 2011


Following my visit to Sutton Hoo, and my ongoing work to republish Kathleen Herbert's first three historical novels- Bride of the Spear, Queen of the Lightning and Ghost in the Sunlight, I have been researching the history of Britain in the Heroic Age- after the departure of the Romans in the late 4th century. Kathleen uses two main sources for Bride of the Spear: the "Lady of the Fountain" story in the Mabinogion, and the life of St Kentigern by Jocelyn of Furness. Cynthia Whiddon Green's translation and thesis are excellent sources of knowledge!

Holme St Cuthbert History Group has also got some interesting information about St Kentigern in the context of the history of the Solway Plain. 

Kathleen's three books were variously known as The Cumbrian Trilogy and The Northumbrian Trilogy- probably because the middle book, Queen of the Lightning, which won the Georgette Heyer Memorial Prize, was about the dynastic marriage between Riemmelth, last princess of Cumbria and Oswy, prince of Northumbria.

Following the success of Queen of the Lightning, Bodley Head then published the other two books, but- shockingly, for such a prestigious publisher- described Bride of the Spear as the third book of the trilogy! This confused many readers and led some to think that one or more of the books had been badly cut or written in a disjointed way.

The settings for the books, when taken together, range from Edinburgh, through Cumbria and Northumbria, to North Wales, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Leicestershire. Whilst those of us who live in Cumbria and Northumbria relish the idea that Kathleen has a particular love for our part of the world, we want to make the magnificent scale of these novels clearer: therefore in their new editions we will use Kingdoms of the North as the subtitle to all three volumes. And we will publish them in the right order!

Readings from Bride of the Spear on 15th January  in Blencogo

St Mungo's Church, Bromfield. St Mungo is the familiar name of St Kentigern

Tuesday 8 November 2011


The next Trifolium Book is on its way!

I can now reveal the author and title of our next book, out in time for Christmas: The Boy with Two Heads: Olympic Dreaming, by J M Newsome. Julia is the author of the CUP prizewinning book, Dragon's Eggs. She is an experienced writer and editor of books for English learners, so this is a new departure for her.

This is a time-slip novel, set in Ancient Greece, modern Athens and Northern England. It is aimed at young adults, but if you want to buy this book for a young person you know who loves reading, I suggest you get it ordered in plenty of time, so that you can read it first!

The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
In 432 BC they think Themis is dead. Across more than two thousand years, Suzanne is drawn to keep him alive. Will his destiny be Olympic glory? And will she regain control of her life in the present, or will her mind be occupied for ever by the past?

It is 432 BC and it is 2010 AD. We are in Athens. Themistokles son of Kallistos has just finished his training session. Best friends Suzanne and Bernie from Penrith are on a school trip to Greece, about to leave the Panathenaic stadium.

Themis, quarrelling with one of his class mates, gallops away and, thrown by his pony, hits his head on the stone abutment of the bridge.

In ancient Athens, the priestess calls on Apollo to call back the soul of Themistokles who is lying as if dead.

Suzanne, dazed by a text from her boyfriend dumping her, starts across the road and is hit by a speeding motor cycle.

Themis regains consciousness, but has no memory. Suzanne is taken to hospital and lies as if dead.

Friday 4 November 2011


It seems like a very long time ago now, and it certainly was a fair old distance away, but I have at last grabbed a few minutes to write about my experience of visiting Sutton Hoo. It was actually less than two weeks ago, and about 460 miles (via Swindon) miles away, but of course, I was also transported back in time to the sixth and seventh centuries- such is the magic of Sutton Hoo.

The seminar History and Fiction in the Age of Sutton Hoo was a great success, with a full house and lots of questions and friendly interest. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but was very aware how little I knew about the Anglo Saxons compared with my fellow speakers. I would like to pay tribute to all of them: I am in awe of their knowledge and expertise!

Thank you to:

  • Pauline Moore for  her organisation of the event. I am looking forward to reading her book,  Storm Frost- but am saving it up for later, when the next two Trifolium Books publications are out (More of these later) 
  • Carla Nayland for her organisation of the programme, and her wit and humour, as always. 
  • Steve Pollington for adding considerably to my small word-hoard from his vast one 
  • Paul Mortimer for bringing King Raedwald to life- and for letting me handle his jewels! 

    My only regret about the day was that I didn't have time to visit the site itself, but I saw enough, and felt enough of the peaceful and magic atmosphere of the place, to want to come back.

    And I feel I have made some new friends!

      Monday 17 October 2011


      When I was a student, I lived just round the corner from the British Museum, and used to make an almost daily pilgrimage to gawp at the magnificent gold belt buckle, the shoulder clasps, the purse lid and all the other stunning artefacts from the Sutton Hoo find. It made the weekly task of translating a chunk of Beowulf more bearable, as it spoke of the real, substantial and complex civilisation that lay behind the poetry.

      A possible cover image for Bride of the Spear
      Many writers have also illuminated those years between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Normans (said with gritted teeth; some of us think that 1066 was the first year of the real Dark Age) Among them are some of my personal favourites, Kathleen Herbert, Carla Nayland and Helen Hollick. Not only am I in awe of their knowledge of those years, but I appreciate their ability to make rattling good stories about them. I met Carla because she replied to a comment I had made on Sarah Johnson's blog about Kathleen's new book, and Helen got in touch with me through one of my later posts. Helen says that Kathleen gave her wholehearted support and encouragement to write about Arthur in a straightforward, but exciting way, cutting through the Medieval mysticism and presenting him as he most probably was: a strong and charismatic war leader.

      So I am looking forward to meeting other writers and readers who share my love of Britain's Heroic Age, and all things Anglo Saxon. There will be a chance to buy a copy of Paths of Exile at a special reduced price- and get it signed. (Although Bride of the Spear is not yet available, I do have some copies of Moon in Leo) The other participants of the seminar will also have books to sell and sign and I have news about the republication of Kathleen's Heroic Age Trilogy (AKA Northumbrian Trilogy, Cumbrian Trilogy, Trilogy of the Northern Kingdoms) and will announce a little competition I am setting up in connection with their publication.

      See you on Sunday!
      My initial sketch for a raven cloak pin to go on the covers of the North Trilogy. It will be made in silver, with moonstones and a ruby, and touches of gold. Ravens flew on Owain's banner, and the royal ring of Rheged was set with an oval ruby.

      Saturday 15 October 2011


      History and Fiction in the Age of Sutton Hoo

      The people who made this beautiful, refined and sophisticated object must themselves have been refined and sophisticated. Why do we persist in calling the age of Sutton Hoo the Dark Ages? Let's hope we shed some light and go away thinking of the Heroic Age instead when a handful of writers gather at Sutton Hoo next Sunday to explore the links between history and fiction.  

      My own part will be small, but I  shall be talking about a subject very close to my heart- jewellery, and its significance, particularly in Kathleen Herbert's Heroic Age Trilogy, which I will be republishing shortly. I'd like to thank Carla Nayland and P M Sabin Moore for organising the seminar and for giving me the opportunity to take part in it. I look forward to meeting some of you there!

      Details below:

      History and Fiction in the Age of Sutton Hoo

      10 am - 5pm, Sunday 23 October 2011. Free entry.

      Local authors of historical fiction and non-fiction set in Anglo-Saxon England discuss their work
      Meet the authors, ask questions, join in the discussions
      Book signing and sales - unique Christmas gift for the book lover in your life
      No charge for admission to the seminar. Book places in advance at Sutton Hoo Reception (01394 389700), or ask at Reception on the day
      Venue - Sutton Hoo, IP12 3DJ ( link to map )


      10.15 Welcome and introductions
      10.30-11.15 Building the Framework
      Source material - history and archaeology
      11.45-12.30 Building the World
      Everyday life, crafts, jewellery, food
      12.30-13.45 Lunch break
      Meet the authors, book signing
      13.45-14.45 Building the Society
      Warfare, kingship, roles of women
      15.15-16.00 Building the Culture
      Poetry, religion, myth and imagination
      16.00-17.00 Meet the authors, book signing


      Carla Nayland
      Author of Paths of Exile, historical novel set in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria.
      PM Sabin Moore
      Author of Stormfrost and Brightfire, historical novels set at Sutton Hoo
      Paul Mortimer
      Re-enactor and author of Woden's Warriors, a
      non-fiction study of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture
      Steve Pollington
      Author of numerous non-fiction works on
      Anglo-Saxon history and culture
      Connie Jensen
      Proprietor of Trifolium Books UK, publisher of historical fiction set in Anglo-Saxon England, including Paths of Exile and Bride of the Spear

      Monday 10 October 2011


      Apologies for my long absence: I have been travelling in Peru- but that's another story! (Tales and musings, as well as photos to be posted on my writer's blog soon)

      We have returned from our travels with renewed enthusiasm, and are looking forward to publishing our next books.We have started work on Bride of the Spear, and expect to have it available before Christmas. (Start making a wish list now!) Kathleen is very pleased about this and has now fully recovered from the traumas of breaking a collar bone and hip. She is settled in her new home, and well enough to visit old friends who live nearby, as you can see from this photo. 

      Kathleen (right) with friend Emilia in September
      My next task is to make the cloak pin which will be a feature of the cover of all three books, but before that, I will be taking part in a one day seminar at Sutton Hoo. This has been organised by Carla Nayland (Paths of Exile) Details here

      Sunday 21 August 2011

      Paths of Exile goes digital

      Paths of Exile is now available as an ebook on both Smashwords and Amazon. Both Paths of Exile, and
      Moon in Leo are now $7 dollars and just under a fiver in UK money!

      I came across this American review of Paths of Exile:

      First, don't be fooled by the apparent length of this may be just over 200 pages but it's very small print and very large pages. Consider it a 350 or so pages! I say this, because it took me a while to get into the story and since it seemed so short I was ready to give up after 20 pages. Stick with it, the names are terribly confusing at first, some different by only a couple of letters, and the places, though less confusing, still managed to throw me off.

      Well- this edition has smaller pages, bigger print and a lot more guidance in the way of character lists, detailed maps and notes on placenames, to say nothing of a much better cover, just in case you were wondering why you should buy the new edition. The e-book is essentially the same, and on most e-readers, you can alter the print size to suit you. And it's half the price of the print edition. Having said all that- what are you waiting for?

      The American reviewer goes on to say:  

      this is a terrific historical novel, obviously written by some one who knows what they are talking about and not just researching a book. (The author is a historian that specializes in 7th century Britain) The details of places, people, behaviour and way of life are fascinating and really add to the story.

      Thursday 11 August 2011

      New Website, New Look

      With the new website going live, I thought I would freshen up the look of the blog too. I hope you like it!

      Website Up and Running!

      The new Trifolium Books website is alive and kicking. Please take a look and let us know what you think. We need your feedback- especially for the FAQs section.

      You may notice that some pages have been removed from this blog, as we transferred information to the website. We will continue to add to the website and post to the blog. If there is anything you want to know about our books and authors, that you think we should add, let us know.

      We also have a facebook page- please "look to like- if looking liking move"

      You can always access the website from the button on the right.

      Sunset from our front gate. Why did I add this pic? I thought it would look nice!

      Sunday 7 August 2011

      Issues of Quality

      I have discussed genre elsewhere, and have always said, what matters is quality. Now how do you define Quality? 

      Sarah … came trotting by with her watering pot between those two doors, going from the corridor to her office, and she said, "I hope you are teaching Quality to your students.". ..
      Quality . . . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others . . . but what's the betterness? . . . So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?
      Robert M Persig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
      I now have an easy definition which works for me as far as books are concerned- do I want to put it on my bookshelf beside Dickens, Austen and Gaskell? I am at the age where I can no longer be bothered with stuff I don't want- ornaments, kitchen gadgets, saggy socks- and books that I am unlikely to read again. They don't get as far as a shelf: an unwanted book moves straight from the bedside table to the hall-stand. In other words, it's on its way out!

      Our reading group, attached to our local Library, has just finished reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Now, although I read it quickly and with enjoyment ("It slipped down easily" said our librarian) it will not have a permanent place on my shelves. It's well written, it's a bit of a page-turner, the characters are interesting. So why? The twist at the end is satisfying in terms of story telling- in other words it's unforeseen and quite clever- but morally, it's a complete cop-out. I get the feeling that JP has engineered it to twist our heart strings! The issues raised by the book however, are important and suck any reader in- designer babies, sibling rivalry and love, possessive and controlling mothers, and filial love. It engendered lively and long discussion. One reader summed it up as "A pot-boiler about serious issues".

      Coincidentally, I have just finished reading Sister by Rosamund Lupton, which shares some of the same themes- although not the central one. I found this book more emotionally engaging and true while still wanting to find out what happens next. And yes, I will read it again- it's earned its place!

      Friday 5 August 2011

      Saturday 30 July 2011

      New Books Look Good in Bulk

      Seeing a lot of them together.... don't you just want to own a copy of this lovely new book? Several American reviews I read complained that the type-face was too small in the first edition. Not so with this one!

      Half Price Smashwords Promotion

      Apologies! I said earlier that you still had a chance of a free download of Moon in Leo from Reading the Past. I got the date wrong, but you can still go for a 50% reduction on Smashwords Sale Promotion.

      Last Chance- Today and Tomorrow

      Last chance to win a free download of Moon in Leo by responding to Sarah Johnson's review on Reading the Past. Take a look at Sarah's other posts while you are there. I am in awe of her knowledge!

      Friday 22 July 2011

      Now on Amazon!

      The new edition of Paths of Exile has at last appeared on Amazon here!  And, coincidentally, I sold the first copy tonight! Cause for celebration! You will soon be able to "see inside" the book on Amazon. I am delighted that Carla has decided to trust us with the new edition of this fine book, and wish her every success with it. 

      We will now look forward to the sequel.

      Wednesday 20 July 2011

      Some further sites where you can see some of the locations from Moon in Leo:

      Frith Hall in Dunnerdale, the isolated hunting lodge where heroine Rosamund is kept as a prisoner:
      She escapes over the fells to Coniston Hall
      The quicksands of the River Leven in Morecambe Bay are a pervasive and sinister presence in the book, and they continue to be a present day danger. Who can forget the fate of those poor Chinese cockle pickers in 2004?
      Towards the end of this video there is a chilling evocation of Kathleen's words as we watch a man being swallowed by the "toothless mouth" of the quicksands:

      Tuesday 19 July 2011

      Moon in Leo giveaway- a second chance!

      Sarah Johnson is offering two free downloads with her review on Reading the Past. If you missed the 48 hour free download, you have another chance! And you don't have to own a Kindle- you can download it in several different formats, and even download a free Kindle app for your computer, phone or tablet.

      Sunday 17 July 2011

      A remote land of sparkling estuaries, rocky woodlands, and wide skies that glow pink and lavender in the setting sun

      Beautiful patterns in the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay

      "Moon in Leo takes place on the Furness peninsula in south Cumbria, England, a remote land of sparkling estuaries, rocky woodlands, and wide skies that glow pink and lavender in the setting sun.  The novel is saturated with atmosphere to the extent that the setting becomes almost a character in itself.

      Birkrigg Stone Circle, with Chapel Island just visible in the distance beyond the church steeple

      In this beautiful yet perilous place, wayfarers who manage to pull themselves free of Morecambe Bay’s treacherous sands can find sanctuary on Chapel Island – the spot where Moon in Leo begins and ends."

      This is the opening paragraph of a new review of Moon in Leo by Sarah Johnson, on her excellent blog Reading the Past

      I thought readers, especially those in North America, might enjoy seeing some pictures of the setting of the book- "almost a character in itself"

      The Lake District fells from the Furness Peninsula

      The estuary of the River Leven, Morecambe Bay, "pink and lavender under the setting sun" 
      The tide has receded and the rider is out in the shallow waters near the shore

      Chapel Island. The tide is just starting to go out, but the Leven still flows either side of the island- it isn't safe to cross yet

      Wednesday 13 July 2011

      Proof Approved!

      Paths of Exile is officially in print again: you will soon be able to find the new edition on Amazon. If you don't know Eadwine and his gesithas, you have a treat in store. The characters in Paths of Exile will stay with you long after you finish the book; I am sure I join Carla's many fans when I say I am looking forward to meeting them again soon!

      What does the runic inscription above mean? All is explained in the new edition of Paths of Exile.

      Friday 8 July 2011

      The proof has arrived!

      Well, and here's how it looks:

      The new edition of Carla Nayland's book, with fells and a rowan tree in the background

      Two fantastic historical novels outside Trifolium Books' head office. More great titles coming soon!

      Tuesday 5 July 2011

      A Darker Place

      "Not recommended as teenage reading"

      I find that the concentration on the text necessary when publishing a book makes me like a Method actor: I eat, sleep and dream the book.

      I have recently been moving between two worlds- early 7th Century Deira  as brought to life by Carla Nayland  in Paths of Exile, and 17th century Furness in Kathleen Herbert's Moon in Leo. Both books are published by Trifolium Press- or at least the latter is, and the former will be available within the next week or two. I look forward to offering this new and slightly expanded edition to the public.

      Now I have moved to a darker place: further north and deeper into Britain's Dark Ages. In Bride of the Spear, Kathleen Herbert's first novel, we are very close in time to the real Arthur, a Brythonic warlord who briefly unified the warring kingdoms of Britain against the invading Anglians after the Romans had left. Many of the characters have counterparts in the Arthurian stories. It is a period which still has an almost mythic hold over us: we gaze down the telescope the wrong way at these small bright figures, and they are still powerful and draw us in.

      This is what Kathleen says:

      I have always liked the stories of Arthur, as most English-speaking people do. You meet them young and are caught by them. You later start to ask yourself why certain stories hold you, and I agree with Jung that the stories which catch you permanently do represent certain movements of one's own psychic development. They yield powerful themes and figures, such as the quest, the last stand, the various faces of woman, the exploration of heroism. These motifs arise again and again in every great story.

      It is some time since I read Kathleen's first book, and then I read her first edition, published by Bran's Head in 1982. It was originally a very long book indeed, but when Bran's Head offered to publish it she found they had a problem: He thought that my book would fit within his image, but he said frankly he couldn't afford all that amount of paper, so could I cut it? I found this technically a fascinating exercise. I have spent much of my life criticizing other people's precis. This was the precis of all time because the manuscript was enormous. I cut it down to what he could afford, and it came out as The Lady of the Fountain.

      When Queen of the Lightning won the Georgette Heyer Prize, Lady of the Fountain was republished as Bride of the Spear in various editions, British and American with more or less lurid covers. This is one of the the most misleading:
      This cover illustration speaks nothing of the essentially savage world of Britain after the withdrawal of Rome, Britain after the death of Arthur, a Britain in which the hero Owain  has the cattle raiders he captures castrated or tied up in the Solway to drown. No wonder A Carson disapproved of the book in 2009:

      Despite the packaging, this novel is not exactly historical romance, nor is it sword and sorcery. The author provides a glimpse into a little-seen corner of British/Celtic history, and the book is well-written. However, from the beginning the tone is harsh, and after an early scene of the young heroine being drugged and deflowered with a spear, the narrative moves on to other scenes of lurid violence. NOT recommended as teenage reading.

      I have to confess that I had not remembered how dark this book is- in fact much of what Kathleen had to cut to get The Lady of the Fountain published, has been put back in. This makes it an altogether weightier and more serious book, a book that enthralls and appalls, yet has enough gleams of light  to keep you reading to the satisfyingly upbeat ending.

      The quotations from Kathleen are from a fascinating interview she did with Richard H Thomson in 1991. The full text can be found here.

      Saturday 2 July 2011

      Waiting for the proof

      All files are now uploaded to our printer/distributor Lightning Source. Now we just wait.... until the proof copy comes back. And hope it's perfect! As soon as we give it the thumbs up by email, the new edition of Paths of Exile will be available on Amazon etc. An e-version is soon to follow!

      After all the frantic activity around this blog during the last couple of days- as many hits in one day as I usually get in a week- I was surprised that so few people took up the offer of a free e-book. Are people suspicious of something for free? Please tell me, and if you did download a copy, let me know what you think of it.

      Tuesday 28 June 2011

      ...and here's the code!

      Go to the Smashwords website and at the checkout enter the codeYH25N It's not case sensitive. Enjoy!

      Free Download Tomorrow

      Go to the Smashwords website and at the checkout enter the code ******* which you will find on the blog tomorrow morning! And my short story for children is always free.

      Monday 27 June 2011

      New Book: Free Download

      To get a free download of Moon in Leo, check this blog on 29th June- I will post instructions, code and link to the Smashwords site. Please pass on to anyone you know who loves a good story!

      Meanwhile, we have been hard at work to bring you our next title: Paths of Exile, by Carla Nayland. Here is a preview of the cover-

      A Guest Post from Carla Nayland

      Dragon head transplants: the background to the double-headed dragon in the Paths
      of Exile cover design

      Paths of Exile is set in what is now northern England (mainly in Yorkshire and Derbyshire) at the beginning of the seventh century.  It tells part of the story of the historical Eadwine of Deira, driven into exile and on the run from a relentless enemy but determined that he will not only survive but return one day to reclaim his conquered kingdom.

      The warring kingdoms at the heart of the story, Deira and Bernicia, would later combine to form Northumbria, one of the greatest kingdoms in Britain during much of the seventh century and the kingdom that gave us cultural treasures such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the works of the Venerable Bede.  This was also the period of the great ship burial at Sutton Hoo, famous for (among many things) its magnificent gold and garnet jewellery.

      For the cover design of Paths of Exile, I wanted an original image closely connected with the story, and one that would also reflect some of the colour and vigour of this ‘Heroic Age’.  Later Anglo-Saxon England was famous throughout Europe for its skilled embroidery, and that gave me the idea of creating an embroidered design for the book cover. 

      The dragon’s neck and body are based on a dragon I found adorning an illuminated letter in the Lindisfarne Gospels.

      The Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript is one of the great treasures of Anglo-Saxon England, and was produced in Northumbria only a century or so after Paths of Exile is set.  The monks who wrote and illuminated it would probably have heard stories and sagas about Eadwine (assuming that they shared the literary preferences of their successors, who were scolded by Alcuin of York for listening to secular sagas), and their parents and grandparents would have remembered him. 

      The Lindisfarne Gospels dragon looks a rather placid and amiable creature, and I had a more warlike beast in mind.  For the dragon’s head, I looked to the Sutton Hoo shield, which features a fierce-looking gilded dragon complete with sharp teeth and gleaming garnet eye. 

      The Sutton Hoo shield is from the early seventh century, the same period as Paths of Exile.  Its probable owner, King Raedwald of the East Angles, was later a friend and military ally of Eadwine (although in Paths of Exile Eadwine has yet to meet him).  So Eadwine may well have seen the dragon-shield from Sutton Hoo in action.

      I transplanted the Sutton Hoo dragon head onto the Lindisfarne Gospels dragon body, and made the dragon double-headed by taking a mirror image down the centre line and adjusting the body coils to fit. 

      Having completed the design, I marked it out onto cloth and set about the embroidery.   The dragon’s body is embroidered in chain stitch in two shades of golden-yellow embroidery floss to give the impression of rows of scales.  The heads are in long-and-short stitch and the jaws in buttonhole stitch.  The dragon’s eyes are in satin stitch in crimson floss, topped with crimson glass beads to recall the garnet eye on the gilded Sutton Hoo dragon. 

      And yes, a two-headed golden dragon does play an important part in Paths of Exile.  There’s a clue in the free sample chapters available from my website  – but if you want to know the dragon’s full significance in the story, you’ll have to read the book. 

      Paths of Exile will be available from, and all good bookstores- bricks and mortar and online, from early July.

      Friday 24 June 2011

      Tuesday 21 June 2011

      Burning Oil: Treading Paths

      A bit of a report on progress...

      I sat up very late last night, or rather this morning, working over what would once be called galleys of the new book, Paths of Exile. Later in the morning- at about half past five, ready to sign a pact with the devil in exchange for a few hour's sleep, I gave up the unequal fight, rolled out of bed and sat down at the computer again.

      I can spend inordinate amounts of time adjusting what seem like tiny elements  in the book's layout, interior design and typography.

      You would probably say that you didn't notice that there were three returns before a chapter heading and one after- and that is exactly what I am aiming for! For the interior design of the book, my aim is to make the reading experience as easy and seamless as possible. In my long phone conversations and email exchanges with the author, we find that our aim is the same.

      My choice is a classic type face in a point size which makes it easy to read without squinting, but doesn't leave you thinking you’ve picked up a large print edition, or a children's book by mistake. This is so that you don't notice the typeface or layout- you just read the story. The book has to be of a size and thickness that "feels" right, and doesn't make you think you're reading a text book. You shouldn't notice whether it's big or small. So the design parameters are the opposite of those for the cover: we want you to notice that! 

      We have been much complimented on the cover of Moon in Leo, and I think the cover of Paths of Exile will be just as alluring- but very different. It is a collaborative effort between me, Kate and author Carla Nayland who has supplied the photo, the hand embroidered dragon and a runic quotation. I have done a lot of the early work, finding fonts, exploring colours and putting together a series of "thumbnails", but designer Kate will be the one who gets it right.

      I should now be addressing the issues I scribbled on my notepad before my abortive attempts to get some sleep: "widows and orphans" and the above mentioned returns before and after chapter headings.  So instead, I'm writing a blog post! (How I love displacement activity!) However I hope it will be of interest to readers to get a glimpse of what goes into the work of a micro publisher: basically exactly the same as goes into the work of any publisher. The difference is only in scale, and at Trifolium Books, there are just three of us. Mostly, it's me- so I am Jill of all trades.

      I'd better get back to my widows and orphans. But I'll make a cup of coffee first!

      Monday 20 June 2011

      Latest News: New Book Out in July; Free Ebook at End of June!

      I have been dropping hints recently- I can now announce that Trifolium Books' next publication is to be Paths of Exile by Carla Nayland. This is a reprint, with a new cover, revised and expanded maps and extra features including a character list and information I hope to be able to post a preview of the new and gorgeous cover design before the end of June. Just to whet your appetite, the picture below shows Carla's design for one element in the cover. 

      Paths of Exile was Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009.

      ... a wonderful story, one that conjures up this long-gone age in extraordinary detail and reveals a profound understanding of its politics, cultures, and religions based on extensive research. It may be true, as Nayland admits, that “solid facts are rare indeed in 7th-century Britain”, but these characters—some real, others pure fiction—are so solid and credible that they will stay with you long after you turn the last page....
      Full review on the Historical Novel Society website

      -And a reminder: Moon in Leo is available as a free download on 29th June

      Monday 30 May 2011

      From bags to bookshelves in six months: from paper to e-book in twelve

      My first memory of Kathleen was when a dog got into the playground and we chased it around as kids do. This young and exotic teacher emerged, scolded us and picked up the puppy. For all I know she adopted it: I seem to remember that she had a dog. Once.

      Exotic- well now what is exotic in a teacher? Nowadays they look, act and dress like executives. In my school days, all teachers were ladies and pretty ancient ones at that: they had grey, slightly crinkly hair in a bun, usually worn low on the neck. They wore decorous but dull frocks in summer, and tweed skirts in winter. Stockings were lisle, shoes were sensible. Grey, grey, beige and grey. (Not that their characters were grey- but that's another story)

      So a woman who sported green stockings, a blue skirt and delicate glass jewellery in all the colours of the rainbow, burst into our world as a multicoloured oddity. She had beautiful red gold hair in an immaculate bob and as I got to know her, I found her mind matched and overtook the wonderful eccentricity of her person.

      Kathleen has always been eccentric, as truly gifted people are eccentric. Eccentric in the best ways.

      She taught me Scholarship Level Latin at school when I was in sixth form, she learnt Welsh and Hungarian, she became a writer… and she shared my love of The Beano and The Dandy!

      I went back to the school to teach. Kathleen was my head of department, and she became my friend. 

      That friendship has lasted, and changed- as friendship does, for over forty years, with gaps, high points and low points.

      During the last few years there have been low points indeed, as the stroke that Kathleen had in 1994 started to take its toll, and she became prey to depression and delusion. During those dark years, she frequently referred to her "Furness novel" and asked me if I could help her "sort it out".

      Finally, gathering all her strength and all her pages, she managed to bundle the manuscript into two large carrier bags- "bags for life" - a lovely irony. And she gathered enough courage and energy to meet me outside Burnt Oak station with the bags. I hadn't seen her for several years, and she didn't want me to see her: "I want you all to remember me as I was", she said.

      She had a week or two of great energy and optimism, when she rode on the wave that had buoyed her up to gather her book together but it was a very brief upturn in what proved to be a rapid decline in her health and spirits. She had been neglecting the physical world of eating, drinking and sleeping until she was found wandering, far from home with a dislocated shoulder, and taken to the nearest hospital. Now, with proper food and warmth and care in sheltered accommodation she is regaining strength and clarity day by day and delighted that people are enjoying Moon in Leo.

      The 29th of June this year is the anniversary of the day Kathleen handed me those two carrier bags. I want to celebrate by giving away the e-version of Moon in Leo. Keep checking the blog for the code. When I post it, you will have 24 hours to download Moon in Leo for nothing!